The Rising Sun Flag (旭日旗, Kyokujitsu-ki) was originally used by feudal warlords in Japan during the Edo period (1603–1868 CE). On May 15, 1870, as a policy of the Meiji government, it was adopted as the war flag of the Imperial Japanese Army, and on October 7, 1889, it was adopted as the naval ensign of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It is still used in Japan as a symbol of tradition and good fortune, and is incorporated into commercial products and advertisements. The flag is currently flown by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and a modified version is flown by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
History and design
The flag of Japan and the rising sun had symbolic meaning since the early 7th century in the Asuka period (538–710 CE). The Japanese archipelago is east of the Asian mainland, and is thus where the sun "rises". In 607 CE, an official correspondence that began with "from the Emperor of the rising sun" was sent to Chinese Emperor Yang of Sui. Japan is often referred to as "the land of the rising sun". In the 12th-century work, The Tale of the Heike, it was written that different samurai carried drawings of the sun on their fans.
A well-known variant of the flag of Japan sun disc design is the sun disc with 16 red rays in a Siemens star formation. The Rising Sun Flag (旭日旗, Kyokujitsu-ki) has been used as a traditional national symbol of Japan since the Edo period (1603 CE). It is featured in antique artwork such as ukiyo-e prints through history. Such as the "Lucky Gods' visit to Enoshima", ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Yoshiiku in 1869 and "One Hundred Views of Osaka, Three Great Bridges", ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Kunikazu in 1854. The Fujiyama Tea Co. used it as a wooden box label of Japanese tea (green tea) for export in the Meiji period / Taisho period (1880s).
The Japanese word for Japan is 日本, which is pronounced Nihon or Nippon and literally means "the origin of the sun". The character nichi (日) means "sun" or "day"; hon (本) means "base" or "origin". The compound therefore means "origin of the sun" and is the source of the popular Western epithet "Land of the Rising Sun". The red disc symbolizes the sun and the red lines are light rays shining from the rising sun.
It was historically used by the daimyō (大名) and Japan's military, particularly the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy. The ensign, known in Japanese as the Jyūrokujō-Kyokujitsu-ki (十六条旭日旗), was first adopted as the war flag on May 15, 1870, and was used until the end of World War II in 1945. It was re-adopted on June 30, 1954, and is now used by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) use a variation of the Rising Sun Flag with red, white and gold colors.
The design is similar to the flag of Japan, which has a red circle in the center signifying the sun. The difference compared to the flag of Japan is that the Rising Sun Flag has extra sun rays (16 for the ensign) exemplifying the name of Japan as "The Land of the Rising Sun". The Imperial Japanese Army first adopted the Rising Sun Flag in 1870. The Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy both had a version of the flag; the naval ensign was off-set, with the red sun closer to the lanyard side, while the army's version (which was part of the regimental colors) was centered. The flag was used until Japan's surrender in World War II during August 1945. After the establishment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in 1954, the flag was re-adopted and approved by the GHQ/SCAP. The flag with 16 rays is today the ensign of the Maritime Self-Defense Force while the Ground Self-Defense Force uses an 8-ray version.
Present day use
Commercially the Rising Sun Flag is used on many products, designs, clothing, posters, beer cans (Asahi Breweries), newspapers (Asahi Shimbun), bands, manga, comics, anime, movies, video games (e.g., E. Honda's stage of Street Fighter II), etc. The Rising Sun Flag appears on commercial product labels, such as on the cans of one variety of Asahi Breweries lager beer. The design is also incorporated into the logo of the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Among fishermen, the tairyō-ki (大漁旗, "Good Catch Flag") represents their hope for a good catch of fish. Today it is used as a decorative flag on vessels as well as for festivals and events. The Rising Sun Flag is used at sporting events by the supporters of Japanese teams and individual athletes as well as by non-Japanese.
The Rising Sun Flag is the war flag and naval ensign of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) since June 30, 1954. JSDF Chief of Staff Katsutoshi Kawano said the Rising Sun Flag is the Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors' "pride". The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force use the Rising Sun Flag with eight red rays extending outward, called Hachijō-Kyokujitsuki (八条旭日旗). A gold border lies partially around the edge.
The flag is also used by non-Japanese, for example, in the emblems of some U.S. military units based in Japan, and by the American blues rock band Hot Tuna, on the cover of its album Live in Japan. It is used as an emblem of the United States Fleet Activities Sasebo, as a patch of the Strike Fighter Squadron 94, a mural at Misawa Air Base, the former insignia of Strike Fighter Squadron 192 and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System with patches of the 14th Fighter Squadron. Some extreme right-wing groups display it at political protests.
Criticism of usage
Due to the flag being used by the Imperial Japanese military and Japan's actions during World War II, it is offensive in East Asia, particularly in South Korea, which was formerly ruled under Japan, and China. Some World War II veteran groups in the United States have also campaigned against its use. The symbol is associated with Japanese imperialism in the early 20th century because of its use by Japan's military forces during that period.
South Korea hosted a navy fleet review at Jeju Island on October 10 to 14, 2018. South Korea requested all participating countries to display only their national flags and the South Korean flag on their vessels. Japan balked at the demand, with the then-Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, since replaced, claiming the display of the Rising Sun Flag should be mandatory under Japanese law. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha urged Japan to be more considerate about Japan's former rule of the Korean Peninsula and stated that her ministry will review "possible and appropriate options" before deciding to take stronger international actions when asked whether South Korea could raise the issue with the United Nations. Japan announced on October 5, 2018, that it will be withdrawing from the fleet review because it could not accept Seoul's request to remove the Rising Sun Flag. Defense Minister notified the South Korean government of its decision. Both nations reiterated the need for continued defense cooperation. When the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was established in 1954, it adopted the Rising Sun Flag (Kyokujitsu-ki) as its ensign to show the nationality of its ships. It was approved by GHQ/SCAP. On 28 September 2018 an official of Japan's Ministry of Defense said that the South Korean navy's request lacks common sense and that they would not partake in a fleet review, since no country would follow such a request. On October 6, 2018, JSDF Chief of Staff Katsutoshi Kawano said the Rising Sun Flag is the Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors' "pride" and that the JMSDF would absolutely not go if they had to remove the flag.
South Korea did not object to Japan's adoption of the Rising Sun Flag for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in 1952, nor to the entry into South Korean ports Japanese warships flying the flag on a warship at the 1998 and 2008 navy fleet review held in South Korea. Negative South Korean campaigning against the Rising Sun Flag began in 2011 when a South Korean footballer Ki Sung-yueng was accused of making a racist gesture, which he defended claiming he was annoyed at having seen a Rising Sun Flag in the stadium. In 2012, South Koreans who disapproved of the flag began to refer to it as a "war crime flag". An analysis indicates that South Korean reactions to the Rising Sun Flag stem from a complicated mixture of emotional, excessive nationalism, and a nationalistic complex towards Japan.
The Sankei Shimbun criticized South Korea's attitude toward the Rising Sun Flag, since even the South Korean ally the United States, who was Japan's opponent during World War II, has not protested formally against the Rising Sun Flag. The president of Sankei Shimbun Minagawa Hoshi said the corporate logo flag of the Rising Sun Flag design of the Asahi Shimbun, which is praised for being conscientious in South Korea, never had any such issues.
In response to some allegations in South Korea that the Rising Sun Flag is the same as the Nazi flag of Germany, the reporter Kisaragi Hayato of Searchina explained the origin of the Rising Sun Flag is the Sun and thus different. Furthermore, if South Korea insists that national symbols that Japan used to invade neighboring countries (in the past) should not be used at all, then South Korea should also send objections to the use of for example the British flag and the tricolor French flag (Drapeau français), because these were traditionally used by the European countries during European colonialism, the first wave of European colonization (1415 to 1830 CE) and New Imperialism (late 19th and early 20th centuries).
The South Korean parliamentary committee for sports asked the organizers of 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to ban the Rising Sun flag. According to Korean lawmaker An Min-suk, it could not be a peaceful Olympics with the flag in the stadium. The organizers refused to ban the flag from venues. In September 2019, the Chinese Civil Association for Claiming Compensation from Japan sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee in order to ban the flag.
Examples of the Rising Sun design in use
One Hundred Views of Osaka, Three Great Bridges, ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Kunikazu, 1854. The composition of the morning sun rising behind the Nanhwa Three Bridge.
Tairyō-ki is a traditional Japanese fisherman's flag. Today it is used as a decorative flag on vessels and for festivals and events.
Flag of the Asahi Shimbun Company since 1889
Asahi Gold Beer
Asahi Beer poster. The Asahi logo is on the bottle label (in 2013, at a pub in Higashiosaka city).
Japan Self-Defense Forces
Viewing march by JGSDF regiment vehicle troops with the flag of the Japan Self-Defense Forces
Ground Self-Defense Force Utsunomiya gemstone site commemorative event with the Self-Defense Forces flag
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force members of the crew of JDS Kongō
United States military
Emblem of United States Fleet Activities Sasebo
Patch of Strike Fighter Squadron 94
Emblem of U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan
The mural painted on a wall at Misawa Air Base, Japan
Former insignia of Strike Fighter Squadron 192
Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System with patches of the 14th Fighter Squadron
- Flag of Japan
- List of Japanese flags
- List of Japanese municipal flags
- National symbols of Japan
- Imperial Seal of Japan
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툭하면 터지는 욱일기 논란은 과도한 민족주의와 민족주의적 콤플렉스라는 복잡한 정서가 출발점이다 ... 늘 그렇듯 욱일기 논란도 일본에 대해 갖고 있는 일종의 콤플렉스 기제의 작동
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[...] the concept of the 'new imperialism' espoused by such diverse writers as John A. Hobson, V. I. Lenin, Leonard Woolf, Parker T, Moon, Robert L. Schuyler, and William L. Langer. Those students of imperialism, whatever their purpose in writing, all saw a fundamental difference between the imperialist impulses of the mid- and late-Victorian eras. Langer perhaps best summarized the importance of making the distinction of late-nineteenth-century imperialism when he wrote in 1935: '[...] this period will stand out as the crucial epoch during which the nations of the western world extended their political, economic and cultural influence over Africa and over large parts of Asia ... in the larger sense the story is more than the story of rivalry between European imperialisms; it is the story of European aggression and advance in the non-European parts of the world.'
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